Will Pune curator Pandurang Salgaonkar banish demons of 2017?
Spinners grabbed 31 wickets in the 2017 Pune Test between India and Australia. (AFP Image)

Wearing his trademark hat and white shirt, curator Pandurang Salgaonkar once again attracted a lot of attention at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium on the eve of the second Test between India and South Africa.

On Wednesday, the grand old man of Maharashtra cricket was going about the job he loves, something he has been doing right since the first IPL game in Pune in 2012. Life indeed has come a full circle for the 69-year-old Salgaonkar, a former Maharashtra pacer, and he has a chance to redeem himself following the controversial incidents that have taken place in the last two and a half years.

When Maharashtra’s cultural capital hosted its first ever Test in 2017, Salgaonkar was at the centre of criticism as the game versus Australia ended inside three days with the ICC rating the pitch “poor”. Spinners grabbed 31 wickets in the game with Nathon Lyon playing a key role in Australia’s win.

After that Test, the state association had roped in the services of former national selector Surendra Bhave to assist Salgaonkar. However, more agony was in store for Salgaonkar as in October of 2017, on the eve of an ODI against New Zealand, he was caught in an alleged pitch-fixing’ episode and subsequently suspended by the ICC for six months, failing to report the incident to the anti-corruption officials. Back then, Salgaonkar’s wife was unwell and that was one of the reasons he had cited for his failure to report.

After his suspension ended, Salgaonkar’s CV added one more match – India vs West Indies in last October. To his relief, he escaped without a controversy. On Thursday, all eyes will firmly be set on Salgaonkar when the action gets underway – his first real ‘pitch’ test since that eventful game in 2017.